Lady Vols' six signees ranked as No. 1 class

Updated: November 21, 2003, 9:41 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- No Mickie DeMoss. No problem.

Seven months after DeMoss, Tennessee's longtime recruiting guru often credited for attracting Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catching and others to the Orange Nation, left to take over at Kentucky, Lady Vols head coach Pat Summitt has signed the nation's top recruiting class during the early signing period -- according to one major recruiting publication, at least.

The Blue Star Index ranked Tennessee's class No.1, followed by Maryland, LSU, Duke, Georgia, Rutgers, Stanford, Kentucky, Connecticut and Purdue.

"This is the greatest recruiting class in the modern era," Blue Star editor Mike Flynn told USATODAY.com.

Summitt's "Super Six" -- two centers, two forwards and a pair of guards, each of whom are multi-decorated high school All-Americans -- includes three players who are considered the No. 1 recruit in the nation at their positions. The are: 6-4 center Nkolika (Nikki) Anosike (Staten Island, N.Y., St. Peter's H.S.); 6-3 center Sybil Dosty (Tucson, Ariz., Salpointe Catholic H.S.); 6-3 forward Alexandra (Alex) Fuller (Shelbyville, Tenn., Shelbyville Central H.S.); 5-11 guard Alexis Hornbuckle (Charleston, W.Va., South Charleston H.S.); 5-9 guard Sa'de Wiley-Gatewood (Pomona, Calif., Lynwood H.S.); and 6-3 forward Candace Parker (Naperville, Ill., Naperville Central H.S.).

Bret McCormick, scouting director for the All-Star Girls Report, also gave Summitt's class high praise.

"Right now I agree that it could be the best ever (recruiting class," said McCormick in the Chicago Sun-Times. "The class was really good before, but Candace put them over the top."

Said Summitt: "We are extremely excited to have attracted a class as tremendously talented as this one. ... It just doesn't get any better than this."

Last Tuesday, Parker became the first female to announce which school she would attend on live national television.

"She is the most versatile 6-3 player (at this stage of her game) that I've ever seen," Summitt said. "She has the ability to play every position on the floor from point guard to post. Truly a great inside-outside player, she can elevate at the rim, create off the dribble, post up, knock down 3s and be an intimidator on defense -- the total package."

Frese lands No. 2 class at Maryland, including top post
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Regarded as one of the top recruiting coaches in the country, Maryland coach Brenda Frese nabbed the nation's second-rated recruiting class, according to the Blue Star Report, as Laura Harper, Crystal Langhorne, Ashleigh Newman and Jade Perry each signed letters of intent to play for the Terps.

A native of Willingboro, N.J., Langhorne was named an All-American by several publications, including Parade, Street & Smith's and USA Today. Rated the No. 1 post player in the country by All Star Girls Report (ASGR) and the No. 3 senior recruit by the Blue Star Report, she was the 2003 New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year while leading Willingboro High School to the state finals. She averaged 25.0 points, 15.0 rebounds and 5.0 blocks per game over her prep career.

A highly talented, fast and athletic power forward, Harper is one of three frontcourt players coming to College Park. Measuring 6-3 and hailing from Elkins Park, Pa., Harper is ranked No. 3 among all centers by the ASGR and is the 15th-best senior overall. With still another season to go, she has averaged 21.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 6.0 blocks at Cheltenham High School, helping her team to a 28-win season. A 2003 Street & Smith's All-American, she was also named to the Pennsylvania 4A All-State team.

A candidate for the Kentucky Ms. Basketball title, Perry has scored 2,173 career points and has pulled down more than 1,400 boards. One of the top 25 forwards in the nation according to the ASGR, she is a Street & Smith's All-American and was named to the AP Kentucky All-State team twice. In 2002 and 2003, she was selected the Third Region Player of the Year and also participated in the Nike All-America Camp.

A 5-10 guard out of Shelbyville High School in Tennessee, Newman was named the Most Valuable Player of the Tennessee State Tournament after leading her team to the state title. A career 1,000-point scorer, she is ranked No. 32 by the Blue Start Report and played in the Nike All-America camp. Newman was also named to the All-4AAA Region team, while also garnering Street & Smith's Honorable Mention All-America honors. In the classroom, Newman carries a 3.3 grade point average and is a member of the Student Council.

Goestenkors gets three at Duke
DURHAM, N.C. -- Another year, another stellar recruiting class for the Duke coach Gail Goestenkors announced the signing of prep All-Americas Chante Black, Laura Kurz and Wanisha Smith to national letters of intent on Friday.

"When you have good players and great people on your team, I think they attract other great players and people," Goestenkors said. "We have added three outstanding individuals."

Black, a Winston-Salem, N.C., native, is a 6-foot-5 center who averaged 20.5 points, 16.5 rebounds and 7.0 blocks as a junior, while shooting 58.2 percent from the field. Black led her East Forsyth team to a 21-3 record and was a Street & Smith's third team All-America in 2003.

"Chante will fit perfectly into our running and pressing style of play," said Goestenkors, who noted that Black is just the second player from the state of North Carolina to play for Duke since 1992. "She is probably the fastest post player in the country as a senior this year. Chante is a tremendous rebounder and shot blocker."

In the latest recruiting rankings, Black is rated as the No. 13 prospect in the country by All Game Sports. Black was a 2003 USA Youth Development Festival South Team member, 2001 and 2002 Street & Smith's honorable mention All-America and Nike All-America camp selection.

A Fort Washington, Pa., product, Kurz attends Germantown Academy where she averaged 25.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 3.0 blocks as a junior. A 6-1 guard/forward combination, Kurz hit 61.0 percent from the field last season as she was named USA Today Junior All-America and Street & Smith's honorable mention All-America.

"Laura has an amazing understanding and love of the game," Goestenkors said. "She is a very versatile player as she can play several positions, and reminds me a little of (UConn's) Ann Strother in that she is a big guard, can shoot the 3-pointer, moves very well without the basketball and has a high basketball IQ"

Over the summer, Kurz was sidelined with mononucleosis and fell in the latest recruiting rankings. Prior to the summer, she was ranked 15th by the Blue Star Report, but is currently listed 24th by All Game Sports. She was an honorable mention Street & Smith's All-America in 2002 and 2001. Her brother, Rob, has verbally committed to play basketball at Notre Dame in 2004-05.

Smith will come to Duke by way of Riverdale Baptist school in Washington, D.C., where she averaged 21.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists as a junior. A 5-11 combination guard, Smith was a Street & Smith's third team All-America in 2003 and is listed as the sixth-best prospect in the class of 2004 by the National Roundball Journal.

"Wanisha is going to bring a lot to the table for us as she is a bigger point guard," Goestenkors said. "She is very strong, sees the floor well and can play the 2 if needed. Wanisha can shoot the 3-pointer, penetrates strong to the basket and is similar to Monique Currie in many ways, except that she is a true point guard."

A 2003 All-Metro selection, Smith was a member of the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival last summer where she averaged 10.4 points and led her squad to a perfect 5-0 record.

"I think both Laura and Wanisha are tremendous passers and have a great understanding of the game," Goestenkors said. "That is going to help our post players."

Three sign with Kansas State
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Three recruits who each were named a Street & Smith honorable mention All-American have signed national letters of intent to join the Kansas State women's basketball team for the 2004-05 season, head coach Deb Patterson announced Wednesday.

"I am very excited about the versatility, skills and overall basketball intelligence that this signing class brings to our program," Patterson said.

The early signing period runs through Nov. 19.

Kimberly Dietz, a 5-foot-9 shooting guard from Boulder, Colo., she averaged 19.0 points, 3.5 steals and 3.5 assists per game en route to being tabbed conference player of the year last season as a junior.

"Dietz brings a very versatile package of skills to the floor," Patterson said. "Much like Megan Mahoney, she is capable of playing any position on the perimeter and has great instincts for the game. She has a great understanding of how to maximize a possession and the game overall."

Carolyn McCullough, a 6-1 guard/forward from Stilwell, Kan., is rated the No. 26 best wing in the Class of 2004 by the All-Star Girls Report. She was rated No. 84 among the top 100 seniors in the Blue Star Basketball Index. Last season, she averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game and shot 52 percent from the field.

"McCullough is a quick-release shooter with very good range who is as fundamental and tough-minded a competitor as any player we've had in the gym," Patterson said.

Shana Wheeler, a 6-2 power forward from Lee's Summit, Mo., was rated the No. 24 best center in the Class of 2004 by the All-Star Girls Report. Last season, Wheeler averaged 14.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 3.0 blocks per game and shot 44 percent from the floor as a junior at Lee's Summit High School.

"Wheeler is a very athletic, exciting post presence, who can score in a variety of ways," Patterson said. "She runs the floor, passes well, has great hands, and is a fierce and explosive rebounder and shot blocker."

Utah signs six
SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah coach Elaine Elliott has received letters of intent from six players -- including four local players and two Canadians -- for the 2004-05 season.

"We really like the impact we think these six players as a group can make on our program," Elliott said.

A 6-3 center and high honor roll student, Brittany Berg of Heber City, Utah, was a second-team all-state pick last year as a junior and helped lead her high school team to the state championship as a sophomore.

"Brittany is a good post player with a good high post game," Elliott said.

Deanne Hanchet, a 6-3 post from Draper, Utah, led her team last season in points (10.0) and rebounds (6.9). In just one year, she also set the Alta High School single-season and career blocks record (56). Hanchet moved to Utah prior to her junior year from Virginia, where she was the 2001-02 Player of the Year at Mount Vernon High School.

"We really like Deanne's size, coupled with her athleticism," Elliott said. "I don't know that we've had a 6-3 athlete like Deanne in a while."

Twin sisters Sarah and Stephanie Red, younger sisters of former Ute Lori Red Castagnetto, are both 5-9 guards at Timpview High School, which is currently ranked 21st nationally. Last season, Sarah was named first-team all-state by the Salt Lake Tribune and was named to the all-tournament teams at the Nike Tournament of Champions and the End of the Oregon Trail Tournament. She was also the Most Outstanding Player in her age group at the Nike Tournament of Champions.

Stephanie was named first-team all-state by the Salt Lake Tribune and second-team all-state by the Deseret News last season as a junior. She was also named to the all-tournament team at the Nike Tournament of Champions.

"Sarah and Stephanie both have great 3-point range, a nice mid-range jump shot and are athletic," Elliott said.

A 6-3 power forward, Jessica Perry of Guelph, Ontario, has played on the Canadian Junior National Team. With her high school team last season, she was a first-team all-star.

"Jessica is another player with great size who can play the four," Elliott said. "She truly has a post game and the ability to face up from 3-point range."

Marie Warner of Hamilton, Ontario, is a 5-11 forward who has played on teams that have won two national championships, seven provincial championships and three city championships. She, too, has played on the Canadian Junior National Team.

"Marie is a very strong, solid small forward," Elliott said. "She will truly be a small forward for us in the sense that she's meant to be rebounding and pounding some people in the paint, but she can also work the perimeter with the ball. She's very athletic."

Like mother, like daughter for Lady Raiders
LUBBOCK, Texas -- The Texas Tech women's basketball team signed one player, Darrice Griffin of Seagraves, Texas, to a national letter of intent Wednesday.

Griffin, who is ranked 21st in the country by the All-Star Girls Report, is the daughter of former Lady Raider Tami Wilson, who played at Tech from 1990-92.

"This is a year of first for us," Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp said. "We signed our first second generation player today."

Griffin, a 6-1 forward, has been a two-year starter at Seagraves High School and is the No. 1-ranked player in the state of Texas by the Southwest Girls Report. Last season, she averaged 18 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and four assists, while being named first team all-state and first team all-region.

The fourth team Parade All-American was named the Most Valuable Player of District 3-2A, while also being selected the All-South Plains MVP. In 2003, Griffin was selected to the USA Amateur team and was named a Nike All-American. She was an Adidas All-American in 2002 and is a nominee for McDonald's All-American. Academically, Griffin is ranked in the top five percent of her class and is president of the senior class.

"Darrice is such a terrific player and person," Sharp said. "We are so excited about having her in our program, first because of herself and second because Tami (Wilson) has been such a big part of this program for a long time.

"I think Darrice has a chance to have an immediate impact. She has a lot of tools and a lot of potential to really explode in the college level. I think she can play several different positions for us."

Later in the week, the Lady Raiders added three more signees, including their first recruits from California and first international player, as Judith Smith (Long Beach, Calif.), Erin Myrick (Duarte, Calif.) and Patrice Edwards (Trinidad-Tobago, West Indies) inked letters of intent.

Smith, a 5-9 guard from Long Beach Poly High School, averaged 20.1 points, 7.2 assists, 7.4 steals and 4.1 rebounds as a junior. In 2003, she was a Street & Smith's first team All-American and a Nike All-American. Smith is ranked 64th in the nation by the National Roundball Journal and as the 29th guard in the country by the All-Star Girls Report.

Myrick, a 6-3 center from Bishop Amat Memorial High, averaged 18.6 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks as a junior. Myrick is ranked 60th overall in the country and 14th among all centers by the All-Star Girls Report. She is also ranked 40th in the nation by the National Roundball Journal. Last summer, she was a member of USA Basketball Women's Youth Development Festival West team, which won the bronze medal. In 2002, Myrick was an Adidas All-American and a Street & Smith's honorable mention All-American.

Edwards, a 6-6 center, averaged 12.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks as a freshman at Frank Phillips College in Borger, Texas. Edwards, a native of Trinidad-Tobago, West Indies, is the first international player the Lady Raiders have ever signed. So far this season, Edwards is averaging 26.3 points, 19 rebounds, 3.3 steals and 3.3 blocks at Frank Phillips. She is shooting 53.3 percent from the field and 68.1 percent from the free-throw line.

"Patrice really intrigues me," Sharp said. "She attended our post camp last summer and I was really impressed with her ability to understand the game when she hadn't really had the opportunity to play it competitively for very long.

"She impresses me because she has a tremendous work ethic that really wants to do well and understands that the opportunity to play basketball in the states can lead her to more things. I'm really excited about getting her on campus."

Longhorns hook one recruit
AUSTIN, Texas -- Jody Conradt has announced the signing of 5-9 shooting guard Erneisha Bailey of Kansas City, Mo.

Bailey is ranked among the top players in the nation, standing No. 20 overall in the All-Star Girls Report recruiting rankings and No. 38 in the Blue Star high school rankings. Bailey has earned Street & Smith All-America Honorable Mention, 2004 All-Star Girls Report HS All-American and Missouri All-State honors while starring at Class 3A Pembroke Hill School.

This past summer, she also played on the North Team at the 2003 USA Basketball Women's Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs, a premier competition for the top 48 seniors-to-be in the nation.

As a junior at Pembroke, she averaged 22.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 4.6 steals per game. She was a First Team All-State pick on both the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association and on the AP Missouri All-State Team squads, and was named the Kansas City Female HS Player of the Year by the Kansas City Star.

"We've been following Erneisha closely for over two years, and I am impressed with her versatility and energy," Conradt said. "She is a player who can possibly play three positions at the college level. What really caught my eye about Erneisha is her work ethic and the fact that she is a player who loves to play defense."

Lady Dogs ink in-state talent, including Humphrey
ATHENS, Ga. -- Megan Darrah, a 6-3, guard/forward from East Coweta High School in Sharpsburg, Ga., and Tasha Humphrey, a 6-3, forward from Gainesville (Ga.) High School, signed national letters-of-intent Wednesday to play collegiately for Georgia.

"Tasha and Megan are the two top players in Georgia," Lady Dogs coach Andy Landers said. "More importantly, they also are two of the top players in the country.

"I've watched both Tasha and Megan grow up playing basketball since a very, very young age. They've been consistent attendees at our summer camps. They already feel like they're part of our basketball family."

Darrah is ranked as the nation's No. 36 and No. 37 overall prospect by the All-Star Girls Report (ASGR) and The National Roundball Report, respectively. She is ranked as the nation's No. 11 guard by the ASGR. As a junior, Darrah averaged 21.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in leading East Coweta to the quarterfinals of the Georgia Class AAAAA State Tournament. Darrah also has been a standout volleyball player, earning Region 4-AAAAA Player of the Year honors as a junior.

Humphrey, a two-time Miss Georgia Basketball, is ranked as the nation's No. 1 recruit by The National Roundball Report. She also is listed as the No. 3 prospect by both the All-Star Girls Report and Full Court Press, as well as No. 6 by Blue Star Recruiting Service. She was named All-America by Parade magazine each of the past two years, earning first-team recognition as a junior after being a second-team selection as a sophomore.

Last season, Humphrey led Gainesville to its second Georgia Class AAA State Championship in three years. Humphrey averaged 21.1 points -- the lowest of her high school career -- and 9.8 rebounds as a junior, while also compiling 125 assists, 104 blocks and 64 steals.

"There are a lot of people who have watched girls' basketball in this state for a long time ... longer than I have and I've been here for 25 years," Landers said. "Many of those people have told me that Tasha is the most impressive high school player they've ever seen."

Later in the week, Georgia also signed 6-2 forward Milan Johnson of Jonesboro, Ga.

As a junior, Johnson averaged 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks for Mount Zion. Johnson has been a regular attendee at Landers' summer camps, where she caught the attention of Georgia coaching staff.

Stanford signs three
STANFORD, Calif. -- Coach Tara VanDerveer announced on Wednesday that Cissy Pierce, Christy Titchenal and Candice Wiggins have signed national letters of intent to join the Cardinal squad for the 2004-05 season.

Pierce, a native of Littleton, Colo., is a guard at Heritage High School. During the past summer, Pierce competed at the 2003 USA Basketball-Youth Development Festival. She has been twice honored as a Nike All-American and Street & Smith's All-American. Last season, Pierce averaged 15.1 points and garnered Class 5A All-Tournament Team honors at the state playoffs as she helped her team to a runner-up finish.

Pierce has lettered three times on the track and field team, taking second place in the long jump at last year's state championships with a school record leap of 18-10 3/4.

Titchenal is a forward from Sonoma, Calif., and attends Ursuine High School. Titchenal was named First-Team all-North Bay League in 2002 and 2003, First-Team all-Empire in 2003 and Second-Team all-Empire in 2002. As a junior, Titchenal averaged 12.3 points and 7.1 rebounds and led her team to the state quarterfinals.

Wiggins, a guard hailing from La Jolla, Calif., attends La Jolla Country Day School and is ranked among the top-10 prospects in the nation by the prep recruiting services. She was named Most Valuable Player at the 2003-04 adidas Top Ten Camp and a Second-Team All-American by Street & Smith. During her prep career, Wiggins has notched 2,514 points and 1,071 rebounds, while averaging a double-double of 27.3 points and 11.6 rebounds.

In prep volleyball, Wiggins earned First-Team all-Coastal South League and First-Team all-CIF honors three-consecutive seasons. She was named the Most Valuable Player of her squad during her freshman, sophomore and junior seasons. Wiggins has plans of joining the Stanford volleyball team as a walk-on.

As a freshman, Wiggins notched school records in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and in the long jump as a member of the track and field team.

Gunter gets two at LSU
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Sylvia Fowles and Erica White each signed a letter of intent to play at LSU on Wednesday.

Fowles, a 6-5 post player from Gulliver Prep in Miami, Fla., averaged 21.1 points and 15.6 rebounds last season for Edison High School on her way to earning USA Today's top junior in the nation and Parade Magazine All-America honors. She is listed as the No. 2 prospect in the nation by Roundball Journal Scouting Service and led Edison to back-to-back state titles and a combined 59-11 record in two seasons.

"Sylvia reminds people around LSU of Shaquille O'Neal when he was in college the way she has the potential to dominate the game today," LSU associate coach Pokey Chatman said.

White, a 5-3 guard from Ribault High School in Jacksonville, Fla., averaged 16.0 points, 6.0 assists and 5.0 steals last season as her team won its third straight state championship. She was the MVP of last year's title game, is ranked 10th by All Star Girls Report and is an Adidas and Street and Smith's All-America.

"I am not sure if Erica knows just how good she is," Chatman said. "Erica is the total package. She has the ability to put up big numbers, but her stat line never tells the whole story.."

When Fowles and White arrive at LSU in the fall, it will not be the first time the two will be teammates. They helped make the Miami Suns into a championship AAU program over the past two years. The duo were also two of 48 of the nation's top high school prospects invited to take part in the USA Basketball Youth Developmental Festival this past summer. They played together on the South team in Colorado Springs, Colo.

DeMoss making mark at Kentucky
In her first season as a head coach at Kentucky, former Tennessee assistant Mickie DeMoss signed what is regarded as the eight-best recruiting class in the country.

"With losing six seniors, when I took this job, I thought that this first year was going to be crucial in recruiting and fortunately this was a very talented year for recruits," DeMoss said.

The class includes three players who rank in the top 40 nationally, including Sade Buley, a 6-0 swing player from Knoxville, Tenn., Sarah Elliott, a 6-6 center from Berea, Ky., Samantha Mahoney, a 5-10 guard from Detroit, Mich., and Chante Bowman, a 6-0 two-guard from Detroit, Mich.

"Basically, we have put an entire team together, filling all five spots. As a unit it is a very strong class," DeMoss said.

Four sign in Borton's second class at Minnesota
Minnesota women's basketball coach Pam Borton announced her second Golden Gopher recruiting class as Brittney Davis, Leslie Knight, Lauren Lacey and Natasha Williams inked National Letters of Intent today.

"We landed another tremendous recruiting class with these four individuals joining our program," Borton said.

Davis is a 5-7 point guard from Jefferson High School in Portland, Ore. Davis was the Co-Player of the Year in the Portland Public School League, leading the Democrats to a 20-5 record a year ago. She averaged 17 points as a junior.

'Brittney gives us a legitimate decision maker and creator in transition," Borton said. "Her ability to penetrate and create shots for others will be a great asset for our team."

Knight, a Minnetonka, Minn., native, is a 6-0 forward from Hopkins (Minn.) High School. Knight is a two-time all-state selection who has started for the Royals since eighth grade. The 2003 Street & Smith Honorable Mention All-American averaged 19.0 points, 8.9 rebounds and 5.0 assists during her junior season. Knight is also a member of the Hopkins soccer and softball teams.

"Leslie is a great competitor whose selfless attitude is infectious," Borton said. "She brings an incredible work ethic to our team and her inside/outside skills fit perfectly into our system."

Lacey is a 6-3 forward/center from Olympia Fields, Ill., and Marian Catholic High School. Lacey is a two-time all-state pick by both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times. Lacey has scored 1,118 career points, while averaging 14.3 points as a sophomore and 16.1 points as a junior. A 2003 Street & Smith Honorable Mention All-American, Lacey competed on the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival North Team.

"Lauren brings tremendous skill and versatility to our post game," Borton said. "She makes running the floor a priority and will fit well into our transition game."

Williams, a Skokie, Ill., native, is a 6-3 forward from Niles North High School. She is three-time Street & Smith All-American with sixth-team honors as a junior and honorable mention acclaim after her freshman and sophomore seasons. Williams enters her senior season with 1,100 career points, 950 career rebounds and 330 career blocked shots. A Nike All-American Camp participant, Williams joined Lacey on the USA Basketball Youth Development Festival North Team. In action with the USA team, she averaged 15.5 points and 11.5 rebounds.

"Natasha can dominate with her defense and rebounding alone," Borton said. "She is a wonderfully positive and spirited player that will give us a very athletic post presence."

Former Pondexter teammate signs with Rutgers
PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Matee Ajavon (Newark, N.J.), Essence Carson (Paterson, N.J.) and Charese "Tudy" Reed (Chicago) have signed national letters of intent to attend Rutgers and play for the Scarlet Knight women's basketball team beginning with the 2004-2005 season, ninth-year head coach C. Vivian Stringer has announced.

Together, the three form a recruiting class that has already been ranked third nationally by the All Star Girls Report and seventh in the country by Blue Star.

"If I could choose any three perimeter players in the country to add to our program, I would choose (these signees)," Stringer said. "That's how excited we are about this group. Each one is extremely special in her own right, so together they make for a very exciting and explosive group.

"They all have been well-schooled on the fundamentals, and each one comes from a very successful program, so we know that they will be able to contribute quickly as freshmen."

Ajavon, a 5-8 point guard, was named a third-team All-American by Street & Smith's last season as a junior at Malcolm X Shabazz High School. A USA Today Sophomore All-American, she played on the 2003 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival East Team that won a gold medal. Ajavon averaged 15.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.9 steals in 2003, earning her second first-team all-state certificate from the Associated Press.

Ranked as the 12th-best prospect nationally by the All Star Girls Report and 20th by Blue Star, she was an honorable mention Street & Smith's All-American in 2001 and 2002 and was named to this year's USA Today Super 25. At the adidas Top Ten All-America Camp, she was the co-Most Valuable Player of the 2002 Underclassmen Game and was named to the Super Six of the 2003 Senior All-Star Game. Last season, she scored 26 points and added four assists and three steals to lead Shabazz to the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title, the first state title for a boys' or girls' team from Newark.

"Matee is an extremely versatile guard who's explosive and quick, has great court vision, and can effectively penetrate," Stringer said. "She reminds me of (former Rutgers All-American) Tasha Pointer in terms of her ability to move the ball and see the floor, but Matee has a bigger body."

Carson, a 5-10 guard who attends Rosa Parks High School but competes athletically at Eastside High School, averaged 19.8 points, 15.0 rebounds, 4.5 blocked shots and 3.4 steals to lead Eastside to the 2003 Passaic County and North 1, Group 4 titles. A fourth-team Street & Smith's and Parade All-American last season, she is rated 11th nationally by the All Star Girls Report and 12th by Blue Star.

A member of the 2003 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival East Team that won a gold medal, she also is a two-time all-state honoree, the 2002 Herald News Player of the Year and was named to the 2003 adidas Top Ten All-America Camp Super Six of the Senior All-Star Game. Selected to this year's USA Today Super 25, she also is an all-state volleyball player and a gifted musician who plays the piano, bass and saxophone.

"Essence is a pro-size guard who has a great handle, is quick and explosive, and can jump to the sky," Stringer said. "She could easily play at point guard. But, she also has great range and can dunk, which speaks to her timing and athletic ability. ... Essence sees the game through the eyes of a coach and point guard, and that should put her light years ahead of a typical freshman next year."

Reed, a 5-11 guard/forward, averaged 16.4 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 3.0 steals and 3.0 blocked shots as a junior last season at John Marshall High School. An honorable mention All-America selection by Street & Smith's last season, she is rated the 28th-best prospect nationally by the All Star Girls Report and the 34th-best recruit by Blue Star.

Reed will be reunited with former Marshall teammate and current Rutgers junior All-American Cappie Pondexter.

"A lot of people don't know much about Tudy because she didn't play much during the summer due to an injury," Stringer said. "But, after playing in one tournament, she went from an unknown to a top-30 player on the national recruiting lists. That says a lot about her ability.

"She's a pro-size guard who can shoot the ball well, has a good handle, is able to create and can dunk. Tudy may not have gotten as many headlines yet because of all the other great players at Marshall, but I think everyone is going to know about her by the end of this season."

Tar Heels add two
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Two players signed letters of intent to play for the North Carolina on Wednesday.

Erlana Larkins, a 6-2 forward from Riviera Beach, Fla., and LaToya Pringle, a 6-3 forward/center from Fayetteville, N.C., will join the Tar Heels in the fall of 2004. Both players earned Miss Basketball honors in their home states last season after leading their respective teams to state championships.

Larkins, who attends the Benjamin School in North Palm Beach, Fla., is ranked as the No. 4 player in the class of 2004 by All-Star Girls Report. Pringle, who attends Seventy-First High School in Fayetteville, is ranked No. 45.

"I'm thrilled that Erlana and LaToya are going to become a part of our program," UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said Wednesday. "They're both well-rounded student-athletes who will fit right in. Both have a championship mentality in addition to outstanding skills. All of our players and coaches are looking forward to their arrival next fall."

Three commit to Wildcats
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona has signed three student-athletes to national letters of intent, coach Joan Bonvicini announced Wednesday.

A native of Tucson, Jessica Arnold is a 5-4 guard from Palo Verde High School. As a junior last year, she averaged 18 points, six assists, six steals and five rebounds per game , and is ranked No. 57 out of the top 100 point guards in the nation by All-Star Girls Report.

Bonvicini said she and her staff have known Arnold, whose parents are Arizona grads, for more than 10 years.

"She's come to our camps since she was a kid; She's even gone to Lute Olson's camp with the boys and was the MVP of her division," Bonvicini said. "She has great talent, excellent skills. She's someone who's going to make an impact right away." Ché Oh is a 6-foot forward from Monroe, Wash. As a junior last year, she led Seattle Prep to a state runner-up finish and was named to the all-tournament team. During the season, she averaged 11.6 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Her sophomore season, Oh helped Seattle Prep win both the Metro League and state championships. She played basketball her freshman year at Monroe (Wash.) High School, where she was a second team All-WesCo North League selection.

"Ché is an excellent perimeter and power player inside; she plays almost like a Barkley," Bonvicini said. "She's someone who is coming from a winning tradition, in both basketball and volleyball."

A 6-3 forward from Hawthorne, Calif., Chari Smith is playing for Fairfax High School in Los Angeles this year after competing for two seasons at Hamilton High School. During her two years at Hamilton (2000 and 2001), Smith averaged 18.6 rebounds, 12.5 points, 4.5 assists and four blocks. The All-Star Girls Report ranks Smith No. 14 out of the top 100 power forwards in the class of 2004 nationwide.

"Chari could really push for a starting spot as a freshman," Bonvicini said. "She can shoot the perimeter jumper, she's quick, she's very versatile, and she has excellent leaping ability.

"She is going to be a good complement for Polkey. I think, down the road, she could end up playing the 3 for us."

Three sign with Buckeyes
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Alice Jamen, Marscilla Packer and Tamarah Riley have committed to join the Buckeye basketball program and will comprise the freshman class of 2004-05. Additionally, sophomore transfer Tia Battle will be eligible to compete next season after she sits out the 2003-04 year to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements.

"A lot of recruiting is fulfilling needs," Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. "With the senior class of LaToya Turner, Emily Haynam and Tanya McClure, a combination post player in Tamara Riley, a solid post player around the bucket in Alice Jamen and a very skilled and talented guard in Marscilla Packer allows us to meet our needs."

Jamen is a 6-3 forward from Wheeling, W.Va. A native of Cameroon, Africa, and the 2003 Most Valuable Player at Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy, Jamen averaged 14 points, 17 rebounds and four blocked shots throughout her career entering her senior season. A member of the 2003 Cameroon National Team, Jamen is the Student Body Governess at Mount de Chantal, owns a 4.1 GPA and is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Herdon Scholarship, awarded for leadership, the Slater Mathematics Medal, Sister Marie Jacqueline Antonelli Medal, given to a student who demonstrates courage and adventure, and the Luisa Valencia Pangilinan Scholarship for achievement in science. Jamen hopes to pursue a degree in sports medicine at Ohio State.

Packer, a 5-9 guard from Pickerington, Ohio, is a 2002 and 2003 Nike All-American and a 2001 Adidas Top 10 All-American. A 2001 and 2002 Street and Smith's Honorable Mention All-America selection, Packer was named to the 2003 Street and Smith Fifth Team and was ranked No. 18 as a junior in the Blue Star Index.

Riley, a 6-2 forward from Detroit St. Martin DePorres High School in Detroit, Mich., is a three-time Adidas Top 10 All-American. A finalist for the 2004 Miss Basketball Award by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan and honored as a student-athlete by The Detroit News, Riley was named to the 2003 All-Catholic League and the 2003 All-Academic Teams by the Catholic League Coaches Association. To date, Riley's teams have lost only three times during her tenure and have racked up three City Class titles (Martin Luther King High School), one Catholic League championship (the first for St. Martin DePorres since 1990) and have made appearances in every final four, finishing as runners-up twice.

Sun Devils sign pair of guards
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Two guards from nearby states signed national letters of intent Wednesday to play for Arizona State.

Coach Charli Turner Thorne said 5-foot-9 Mandy Morales of Billings (Mont.) West High School could play either backcourt position. Morales averaged 20.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists as a junior.

Reagan Pariseau, 5-5, is a point guard from Veradale (Wash.) Central Valley who averaged 10 points and 5.3 assists.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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